'Clearly trafficked drugs for profit': Ex-Huskie Seamus Neary gets 15 months for pot offence

Ex-University of Saskatchewan Huskies football player Seamus Neary has been sentenced to 15 months in jail after the province's highest court overturned his suspended sentence.

Previous decision suspending Neary's sentence overturned by court of appeal

Seamus Neary, formerly of the University of Saskatchewan Huskies, has been sentenced to 15 months for the possession marijuana for the purpose of trafficking. (Peter Mills/CBC)

Former University of Saskatchewan Huskies football player Seamus Neary has been sentenced to 15 months in jail after the province's highest court overturned his suspended sentence.

In 2014 police seized several kilograms of marijuana from Neary and charged him with possession for the purpose of trafficking. 

A Court of Queen's Bench judge gave Neary a suspended sentence, which meant he would avoid jail time as long as he stayed out of trouble and obeyed conditions set by the court. However, the Crown appealed the sentence. 

In an April 25 decision, an appeal court panel of judges agreed with the Crown, emphasizing that marijuana possession is still illegal, and that even if marijuana possession may soon become legal, marijuana trafficking will remain against the law.

Apartment had $1,000 in cash 

Neary was arrested in early 2014 by Saskatoon police officers investigating a suspected drug trafficker.

Officers found three kilograms of marijuana in the backpacks of Neary and another person, plus another six kilograms in a storage locker rented by Neary. An additional, unspecified amount of marijuana was found in Neary's apartment, plus $1,000 in cash.

The court of appeal decision noted that Neary had no criminal record at the time of his arrest and cited his history as a valedictorian who received a scholarship to play football for the University of Saskatchewan Huskies and maintained good grades while doing so. 

Neary found steady employment as a research assistant, construction worker, assistant coach and personal trainer since 2007, according to the decision.

Neary's defence: pot to be legal anyway

Part of Neary's defence was that the federal government was planning to legalize the possession of marijuana anyway.

The judge who originally gave Neary a suspended sentence took into account both that argument and Neary's otherwise-virtuous past.

"He has conducted himself well as a citizen but for this single unfortunate foray in the mire of the drug world," wrote the judge. "To be certain, as he attempted to engage in a criminal enterprise, his crimes are deserving of denunciation and deterrence.

"However, facing the reality that the product in which he dealt is to become legal, it should be said that the decibel level of such denunciation and deterrence may be less than it otherwise would be."

But the court of appeal disagreed.

Gravity of crime remains: court of appeal

"The gravity and seriousness of the offences are not attenuated by the personal circumstances of the accused," wrote Justice Ralph Ottenbreit in agreement with two other court of appeal judges.

"[Neary] clearly trafficked drugs for profit," he added. 

As for Neary's argument that pot possession will soon be legal in Canada, Ottenbreit wrote, "This Court is bound to apply the law as it stands at the present time and, in any event, the government has not proposed the decriminalization of trafficking in marijuana."

The court of appeal set a sentence of 15 months. 

Neary was ordered to turn himself into the nearest RCMP detachment. 

with files from Cory Coleman